Sunday September 9 2012


Getting out of bed at 11:41 p.m.

Yellow Pluots. White Peach. Orange Juice.

All day shift at China Wok.

Snapping the snow peas at work.

Phil Gray is in town. I text Anthony a few times, mimicking local news headlines – referencing Obama’s visit to Rick’s a few months ago. 

“Phil Gray makes an appearance at China Wok. Talks with military wives.”

“Phil Gray makes appearance at Panera. Meets with underpaid employees.”

“Phil Gray makes appearance at 1435. Encourages hopeless hipsters.”

Anthony eventually responds, “Tony Hoyer emerges from a Saturday night blackhole.”


Phil shows up at The Wok and joins me on my delivery runs.


I explain, “The magic number is three today.” I point to the list of tips I’ve accumulated today, “See? All threes.”

Phil: “Three seeks a four. It wants completion.”


We pull into Linkhorn Bay Apartments, where I make at least 5 to 7 deliveries a day.

Phil takes note, “We come to this neighborhood a lot. Why don’t they just build another China Wok stand here? You could make a food cart.”


Me: “That’s a really good idea. There’s two other neighborhoods just like this that could benefit from food carts.”


Talking about my job, “Like, I’ve hit highs and lows with it. I never really get bored with this job. I always have my stressful days and moments. But sometimes I’m just on complete automatic when I’m driving, even when I’m delivering, like I don’t even think about anything. It’s strange.”

Brief stop at the house for food. Anthony greets Phil with a twinkle in his eye and a warm embrace. I’ve always known them to have kindred spirits yet they have no close relationship.

Grilled Cheese with Tomato. Salt n Vinegar Chips. Honey Green Tea.

Phil takes notice of the 3D picture of Jesus and the disciples, “This is a good find.” He adds, “Jesus is more believable when he’s in 3D.”


Back on the job. Talking with Phil about the new love in his life. He has a girlfriend now. She’s a Korean muse for him. We relate and draw parallels between his relationship with her and my relationship with Aysena. Psychoanalyzing...

Phil: “I can talk about anything with her and she understands and that includes, like, I could be speaking in metaphors and highly figurative language and inside jokes and stuff. It’s to the point where a lot of times I forget that English isn’t her first language. But that was a big part of the barrier.”

Me: “It’s new and exciting. It’s like new terrain. It’s challenging...cause of the language barrier so that makes it kind of fun. I’ve actually been learning Russian over the past year. I do know basics so I’m able to use that with her.”


He mentions his plans to move to Korea to be with his mate and try out a new life, “Well I’m planning on moving to Korea in December...for at least six months. There’s a lot of copy-writing copy-editing jobs. I got to thinking about it. I’m not where I wanna be. I’m not making enough money. There’s jobs in Korea. It’s a different country with awesome food. She’s there.”

Me: “Are we talking about love here?”

Phil: “Yeah.”

Me: “That’s really cool.”

Phil: “I mean she’s awesome. She’s just like a really good person. She’s extremely smart and sweet. Very popular. Very loyal. She has no neurotic problems like American girls.”

Me: “I’m glad you found something that’s made you come alive, so to speak. I love that feeling. I love those experiences.”


Me: “There’s something interesting with the connection between someone like us and a girl from the far side of world. I just wanna make sure when I think about the connection between Ays and I, I don’t want it to be this thing where it’s just merely an exotic thing that I’m attracted to or is this really someone that I genuinely like as an individual.”

Phil leaves me and goes on to visit Elliott.

The day continues. It’s steady and the tips are generous.

It’s almost 8 p.m. and I finally have a chance to sit down. Another order comes in and I shove it off on Darren, “You can take this one. I need to take a breath.”

He walks away with the order in hand and makes fun of me, “Boo-hoo-hoo. I can’t breathe while I’m driving.

The shift decrescendos into nothingness. It’s slow enough for the China Wok family to sit down and eat dinner together. I stay at my usual table eating my own dinner.

Tofu with Broccoli, Snow Peas, Onions, and Rice in Garlic Sauce.

Off work.

I head over to Aysena’s place on Shore Drive. It’s her second to last night in Virginia Beach before we head to Nags Head on Tuesday for romantic adventures. She’s sad about leaving all her summer friends and memories behind.

its like a choice between sreaming loudly and just hiding your eyes with your hands and quietly crying maybe because ill never see them again. I think I gave too much.

life moves. new faces always coming and going. you gave just right. you should always give as much as you can. life is more beautiful this way.

I brought over her favorite fruit: seedless purple concord grapes. Sipping on individual Sake and watching The Lives of Others (2007) on the bottom bunk. Her roommate rustles around the room and eventually goes to sleep on the top bunk.


Ays: “You funny...sometimes.”

Me: “Oh yeah? What about other times?”

Ays: “You’re just...James Robert Smith.”

Back home.

Settling down and going to sleep around 3:30 a.m.

[i] The China Wok Family. Image by me.

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